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Written Answers

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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Written Answers

Post Office

Broadcastinǵ (Wired Relay Service)

asked the Postmaster-General the approximate number of radio sets in this country which are estimated to he out of repair and unserviceable; and whether, as it is desirable that broadcasting should be available to the largest possible number of listeners, he will arrange for every reasonable encouragement and facility to be accorded to efficient wired relay service operators, who could, in certain areas, meet the needs of listeners with a minimum of expenditure of the materials now in short supply?

I have no information of the number of radio sets out of repair and unserviceable. The suggestion in the second part of the Question is already being met.

Football Pools (Facilities)

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the curtailed postal facilities, recently announced, it is proposed to continue the facilities provided for football pools?

The sending by post by pool promoters of forms, coupons or circulars for use by any person entering football or racing pools is prohibited and any such communication observed in the post is stopped and returned to the sender. Football pool traffic by post is thus, in the main, confined to the sending by clients to pool promoters coupons (taken from newspapers) and of remittances. No special facilities are provided for its disposal.

Merchant Ships (Mails)

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction felt by crews of requisitioned ships at the poor arrangements for the delivery of their mails; and whether he will cause an inquiry to be made into the circumstances, with a view to improvement?

Under war-time conditions, British merchant ships fall into two classes (a) those employed on Government non-commercial service, and (b) those employed on ordinary commercial service. In order to preserve secrecy as to the movements of ships, correspondence intended for merchant ships on Government non-commercial service has to be addressed "c/o G.P.O., London, E.C.I": it is then forwarded by the Post Office to locations furnished by the Ministry of War Transport. For the same reason, correspondence intended for ships on ordinary commercial service has to be addressed to the care of the owners or the owners' agents in the United Kingdom; and special arrangements have been made with them by the Post Office for the correspondence to be redirected, without any outward indication of the names of the ships concerned, to agents in ports at which the ships are expected to call.Delays to ships' mails are in the main due to protracted voyages and the consequent difficulty of forecasting where mails can connect with ships. It often happens that ships have to be unexpectedly diverted to ports other than those anticipated at the time of despatch. Moreover, the ships conveying the mails suffer from the same liability to delay or diversion en route. When correspondence fails to connect with a ship, it is the responsibility of the appropriate authority or agent in the port to redirect the correspondence so that it may connect with the ship at some other port. The arrangements for the treatment of correspondence to both classes of merchant ships are under continuous review by the Post Office and the Ministry of War Transport, and every effort is made to improve them as circumstances permit. If my hon. Friend will be good enough to send me details of specific cases of complaints I shall be happy to look into them in concert with the Ministry of War Transport

Martinique

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is prepared to make a statement as to the present political position of Martinique?

I have nothing to add to the public announcements which have been made by the United States Government. According to these announcements, the United States Government informed the Vichy High Commissioner at Martinique on 26th April that the United States Government abrogated all informal understandings with Martinique and had instructed the American Consul-General there to return to the United States, leaving the consulate in the charge of a consular officer who would not be authorised to enter into or conduct any negotiations of a political character. Admiral Robert's reply to this communication was described by Mr. Cordell Hull on the 4th May as an indication of an incomprehensible attitude.

Factory Acts (Prosecutions)

asked the Minister of Labour the number of factories and other places coming under the Factories Act, 1937, which were prosecuted for infringements of the Act in respect of the hours of work laid down for young persons during the years 1940, 1941 and 1942?

The number of firms or persons prosecuted under the Factory Acts for illegal employment, whether of young persons or adults, was 70 in 1940, 80 in 1941, and 50 in 1942. A prosecution often includes several charges in respect of illegal employment of several persons on one occasion or of the same person on more than one occasion. Charges of employing a young person for illegal hours or at illegal times numbered 132 in 1940, 172 in 1941 and 204 in 1942, and the convictions number 124, 161, and 200, respectively.

Church Of England (Land Ownership)

asked the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch, as representing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the total acreage of land owned by the Church of England in this country; how much of this is agricultural land; how much housing property; and the total values involved?

The Commissioners have no information as to the total acreage of all land owned by or for the purposes of the Church of England in this country and can only answer with regard to their own estates There are upwards of 270,000 acres of agricultural property, including some 11,000 acres of woodlands and moorlands; the acreage of urban land is estimated at about 6,000 acres but the Commissioners' urban records are not kept in terms of acres. No recent valuation of the Commissioners' properties has been made, but the total net rental received in 1942, including the rents of agricultural and urban estates, and royalties, ground-rents and other receipts in respect of ownership of land, was £1,110,000.

Club, London (Police Raid)

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the police raid on the Black and White People's Club, Frith Street, Soho, on Tuesday night last; how many names were taken; whether any of them were women; and whether any of them were of military age?

The club was entered on 11th May by the police in accordance with a warrant issued under Section 82 of the Licensing (Consolidation) Act, 1910. Proceedings under that Act are being taken. The names and addresses of 51 persons, of whom 23 were women, were taken. Of these, 15 men and 10 women belonged to groups liable to be called up for military service and were accordingly interrogated, but the police found no reason to suppose that any of them were evading military service.

Factory Fire, South Wales (Salvable Material)

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what became of a large quantity of silk and webbing which was in the storehouse of the fire-damaged balloon factory situated in South Wales; and what was the cost of such material?

The material in question was the property of the contractor and not of my Ministry. So far as my information goes, all the salvable material referred to has been or is being recovered for use or for reconditioning. I am also informed that the value of the property referred to by the hon. Member is estimated by the contractor at approximately £36,000.

Food Supplies

Canteen, Suffolk (Meat Ration)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the change made by Hartismere food office or the catering division of the Ministry of Food in the meat supplier to the aerodrome site in Suffolk, of which he has been privately notified, has resulted in a temporary stoppage in the supply of meat to 800 men and that there is danger of industrial trouble unless the situation is remedied; and whether he will restore the previous arrangement for supply which worked satisfactorily?

From the inquiries so far made, I have been unable to ascertain any reason why the canteen to which my hon. Friend refers should not be adequately provided for by the supplier to whom the catering contractor has been assigned. I am, however, making further inquiries and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Fish (Size)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether it is proposed to review the Order prohibiting the sale of fish less than nine inches in length; and whether any concession is to be made?

The operation of this Order will be reviewed in due course. I am not able to say, in anticipation, whether the review will reveal any balance of argument for varying the Order.

Holidays At Home (Refreshments)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will consider the possibility of making special allocations of certain foodstuffs, such as tea and milk, to those local authorities who are actively stimulating and encouraging the Holidays-at-Home campaign?

Careful arrangements were made last year to assist in providing refreshments in connection with Holidays at Home. The arrangements worked very satisfactorily and will be made again this year.

Clothing Coupons (New Issue)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that the new clothing coupons will be valid when detached from the new food ration books, as any other arrangement would be inconvenient to a large number of workers and others whose housekeeping is done for them but who purchase their own clothes?

Yes, Sir. The 1943/4 clothing coupons form a separate book which is bound inside the food book only for convenience in issue. It should be cut out of the food book after issue and is to be used separately. I should like to take this opportunity of urging that the name and address of the holder should be written on the cover of the clothing book when it is detached and that it should be kept safely.

African Colonies (Films)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has under consideration, for the benefit of the rural indigenous population in the African Colonies, any plans to set up a small permanent central organisation, under expert guidance, for the production and distribution of good quality educational and entertainment films and the training of competent African commentators for rental by approved public bodies or individuals; and whether there is any permanent system of censorship on films imported into these territories?

The question of the use of films in adult education is being examined by my Education Advisory Committee and I will pass on my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion to that committee for their consideration. Since October, 1939, however, a Colonial film unit of the Ministry of Information under the joint supervision of that Department and the Colonial Office has produced 69 films specially designed for African audiences. The question whether this organisation should be placed on a permanent basis will be considered later. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the affirmative.

Seasoned Timber (Stocks)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he has completed the promised inquiry into the existence of large unused stores of seasoned timber on military and other Government premises which could be used for the construction of the new rural houses and for repairs in bombed areas; and with what result?

Yes, Sir. I have satisfied myself that there are no large unused stores of seasoned timber on military and other Government premises that can be diverted from the Purposes for which they are at present intended, to increase the timber available for new or bomb-damaged houses. The use of timber for all purposes is under close and continuous scrutiny, by the Ministry of Supply Timber Control and the Ministry of Works and has been since the timber position deteriorated; and the existence of local stocks of unused timber does not imply any actual or potential waste.

Scrap-Metal Collection

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works the cost of collection of scrap-metal to the last convenient date and the value of scrap so collected?

Up to 31st March last the cost of collection of scrap-metal, handled directly by the Ministry of Works, was £1,796,000. Its value, at controlled prices, is estimated at £1,948,000.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will define his relations with the Ministry of Supply in connection with the collection of scrap-metal?

The Ministry of Works has undertaken on behalf of the Ministry of Supply the collection of scrap-metal from sources other than those normally supplying the trade. The activities of the two Departments are co-ordinated by an interdepartmental committee.

Soldier's Death, Chatham (Charge)

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been drawn to the coroner's inquiry held at Chatham, on the death of Rifleman William Clarence Clayton and the verdict of manslaughter against Regimental Sergeant-Major J. Michael Culliney and Quartermaster-Sergeant Leslie Dickson Salter; whether the police opposed the granting of bail to these men; and on what charge it is proposed to proceed against them?

Bail was not opposed by the police. The warrant officers will be charged with manslaughter.

Old-Age Pensions (Estimated Cost Of Extension)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give an estimate of the additional cost of paying Old Age Pensions of 30s., with no conditions and without regard to insurance eligibility, to all men over 65 and all women over 60 years of age or, alternatively, to all persons of either sex over 60 years of age; and what the additional cost would represent expressed as a rate of contribution spread equally over the whole working population, including the Armed Forces, and as a rate of Income Tax, respectively?

To pay pensions of 30s. a week to all men of 65 and all women of 60 with no conditions and without regard to insurance qualifications would cost about £450,000,000 a year, and to pay such pensions to all persons of 60 (men and women alike) would cost £530,000,000. Existing services (old age pensions, including pensions to widows of 60 and over, supplementary pensions, &c.), now cost about £150,000,000 a year. The additional cost of the former arrangement would therefore be £300,000,000 a year and of the latter £380,000,000. The position in regard to contributions under the existing scheme would also be affected. If uninsured persons were to be given old age pensions on the same footing as the insured, it would be impossible to collect old age pension contributions from insured persons only. Either the whole population of working age would have to contribute, or there would be no contributions. In order to arrive therefore at the amount which would have to be found by contributions if the new Arrangements were to be contributory or by taxation if they were to be non-contributory, it is necessary to add the contributions for old age pensions under the existing scheme which would in any case be discontinued. These amount to about £30,000,000. The sums to be found by contribution or taxation would thus be £330,000,000 if the pension ages were 65 for men and 60 for women, and £410,000,000 if the pension age were 60 for both sexes.As regards the cost in contributions, £330,000,000, spread over all persons of 16 and upwards and under pension age, including members of the Armed Forces, but excluding housewives not gainfully occupied would be equivalent to about 5s. 6d. per head a week, and £410,000,000 similarly spread (except of course that men would only pay up to 60 instead of up to 65 if their pension age were reduced to 60) would be equivalent to about 7s. od. per head a week. These figures relate to the present time, and would increase with the growing weight of the population of pension age. Moreover, since contributions could not be levied from those who are unemployed, they would have to be increased if the level of employment declined. As regards Income Tax, 1s. on the standard rate of tax may be regarded as equivalent to an annual revenue of about £100,000,000. This figure is related to the present taxable national income, and would rise or fall with any increase or decrease in the taxable national income. It cannot, however, be assumed that the rate of Income Tax can be indefinitely increased without affecting the yield. While, therefore, the costs I have given are equivalent to about 3s. 3d. and 4s. 1d. on the Income Tax, it must not be assumed that it would be practicable to raise the present standard rate of tax by these amounts, or that to do so would result in increasing the revenue by £330,000,000 or £410,000,000.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give an estimate of the saving in the cost of paying Old Age Pensions of 30s. to all men over 65 and all women over 60 years of age or alternatively, to all persons of either sex over 60 years of age, if the pensions were made conditional on retirement from gainful occupation?

The numbers of persons of pension age who remain at work under present conditions cannot be regarded as any guide to the numbers who would remain at work if they knew that they would get no pension as long as they went on working, but 30s. a week if they gave up work. The matter is therefore one for conjecture, but clearly 30s. a week would be a very strong inducement to give up work, and it seems likely that with that rate of pension the effect of the retirement condition would be much more to reduce the number of elderly people at work than to reduce the numbers qualified for Old Age Pensions. This result would be more likely if the present pension ages were retained than if they were reduced, and in this event the retirement condition would not result in any substantial saving. If the pension age for men were reduced to 60, there might be a substantial number of men who would remain at work after that age, despite the inducement to retire. By way of illustration rather than forecast, it may be said that if half the men between 60 and 65 remained at work, the retirement condition would reduce by about £40,000,000 a year the cost of pensioning men at 30s. a week from the age of 60.